David Bowie's Music Industry Future Vision

The Week:

{David} Bowie's capacity for groundbreaking even extended into the arena of economics. In 1997, he pioneered the idea of using his future royalty payments as backing for financial securities that could be sold on the markets to investors. The so-called "Bowie bonds" themselves didn't work out too well. But the idea of turning the streams of royalty payments from intellectual property rights into a financial security took off in film rights, comic strips, pharmaceuticals, restaurant franchises, and more. Such oddball securities now make up 21 percent of the U.S. market for asset-backed insurance.

But what's even more interesting is why Bowie cooked up this idea. In 2002, in the heyday of Napster and the free file-sharing craze, Bowie told The New York Times he thought the entire business model of the music industry was collapsing. Fourteen years later, things did not pan out as dramatically as Bowie predicted — but he got the basic thrust right.


David Bowie in The New York Times, 2002:

''I don't even know why I would want to be on a label in a few years, because I don't think it's going to work by labels and by distribution systems in the same way,'' he said. ''The absolute transformation of everything that we ever thought about music will take place within 10 years, and nothing is going to be able to stop it. I see absolutely no point in pretending that it's not going to happen. I'm fully confident that copyright, for instance, will no longer exist in 10 years, and authorship and intellectual property is in for such a bashing.''

''Music itself is going to become like running water or electricity,'' he added. ''So it's like, just take advantage of these last few years because none of this is ever going to happen again. You'd better be prepared for doing a lot of touring because that's really the only unique situation that's going to be left. It's terribly exciting. But on the other hand it doesn't matter if you think it's exciting or not; it's what's going to happen.''